18th August, 2011
Yesterday, 17 August, marked the 70th birthday of former military ruler, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida (retd.) As part of the ceremonies, IBB, as his sobriquet goes, spoke to reporters in his Minna residence, a day earlier, where he delved into some critical national issues. Whatever purpose the general intended the media briefing for, he ended up stirring up hornetâ€™s nest.
One of the issues he touched on was the countryâ€™s electricity supply debacle. The Evil Genius, as he is infamously known, tried to assume the role of a social critic to the utter fury of discerning Nigerians. Babangida took to the cleaners his fellow general, and former president, Olusegun Obasanjo (retd.), for failing to fix the power sector, despite spending a staggering $16 billion during his eight-year tenure. IBB upbraided Obasanjo for his profligacy and lack of foresight.
â€œIf I had $16 billion, I would not only have provided adequate power, I would have given this country a nuclear power plant; not for the purpose of waging war, but to provide electricity for the people. $16 billion is a lot of money. There was no foresight during that administration to spend that much money on an issue that was not achievable,â€ Babangida sermonised.
While not by any means excusing Obasanjo for the scandalous bungling of power projects executed at alarming costs to the taxpayer, Babangidaâ€™s reprimand of the Ota farmer amounts to the proverbial pot calling the kettle black. His diatribe flies in the face of morality, as his antecedents all too show. Before Babangida can remove the speck in Obasanjoâ€™s eye, he should very well first take care of the log in his, by telling Nigerians what became of the $12 billion oil windfall from the 1992 Gulf War.
Babangidaâ€™s attempt to rewrite history by his claim that he â€œmanaged poverty to achieve commendable resultsâ€, is simply laughable. In what is clearly a bogus lie he claimed: â€œDuring my years as President, I managed poverty to achieve commendable results, but these days, people manage affluence to achieve poverty. I regret the fact that the price of crude oil was low during my administration. I wished I was there when it was $120. Nigeria would have seen wonders.â€
It remains fresh in our memories the devastating effects of Babangidaâ€™s Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, on the Nigerian. By lending himself as a lapdog to the International Monetary Fund, IMF, Babangidaâ€™s SAP economic policy further eroded the buying power of the already impoverished masses.
But the former dictatorâ€™s flawed assessment of infrastructure and the economy during his inglorious tenure didnâ€™t ruffle as much feathers as it did his attempt to pour cold water on his ignoble role in the execution of his Best Man, Major-Gen. Mamman Jiya Vatsa, who was implicated in a failed coup in 1986. In what amounted to shedding crocodile tears, 25 years after ordering Vastaâ€™s killing, Babangida expressed regrets for his action.
His words: â€œThe execution of Vatsa was the most traumatising decision I have ever been confronted with in my life because we were not only friends, but you can confidently refer to us as members of the same family because our families were not only close, but our extended families were.â€
In one breath, IBB claimed to have regretted having to order the killing of his bosom friend, Vasta; in another, he turns round to say he didnâ€™t regret any action taken during his odious regime. His double speak: â€œAs a tenet of the military profession, I take responsibility for any action taken under my leadership. I cannot delegate responsibility, but only authority, and I have no regret for my action, because it was in line with military tenets.â€
Need we say IBB remains the old crafty Evil Genius?